October 5, 2016

Plum Jam

There is nothing more invigorating than a walk in a crisp October Sunday morning after autumnal rain when the air is soaked with the smell of wet walnut leaves, freshly ground coffee, baked apples with cinnamon, a lovely fabric softener from a laundry... This amalgam of exciting fragrances of the neighbourhood's simplicity conjoins perfectly with the highly saturated palettes of golden yellows soon to become fiery reds, with a mix of orange in between and a brown edge... The previously dusty sidewalks are covered with a new glossy coat of cleanness and small mirrored puddles in which you can see your reflection. The sun is so gentle, you close your eyes – you breathe in light and breathe out ease... 
Each season brings its own mood and I love how Autumn makes me feel. I have been waiting for this depressing and sad summer of mine to finally come to an end. For so long I wanted to somehow be on the other side of my life, back to normalcy. After numerous situations in which I came up against a brick wall and the loss of my beloved grandmother, my emotional composure was challenged and I failed to maintain a positive self-image. I put so much energy into the unproductive "why me" thinking that I wanted so badly to run from this miserable person I had become. I've always known that there are never easy paths in life and our days have always started and ended with uncertainty. What appeared surprisingly difficult to me this time, was my lack of ability to let go of old illusions of control and to embrace life as it is; to accept grieving as a fundamental process of live. It felt strange and disappointing to be almost halfway through my life and still trying to figure basic things out. I struggled to accept the reality, which according to every member of my family wasn't as bad as I thought. I needed to go back to some of my favourite books, authors, artists and thinkers to find courage to overcome fears and gain wisdom, to stop the fight within me, let things go and begin practicing acceptance. And somehow I knew for certainty that the change in seasons will bring a transformation not only in nature, but in my lost self as well, because changes – welcomed or forced as well as the unbearable goodbyes have always been an important component of human evolution; we might never learn the true measure of our own strength if we haven't been pushed out of our comfort zone.
Slowly, with the warm colours of the landscape, with the return to the routine, the freshness of the rain, the abundance of the harvest, my pain, my fear and my worry have been replaced by open eyes able to notice again, a mind focused more on the present, a heart grateful for what I have rather than what I want, and arms wide spread for the simple joys in my world... and the more I have been taking notice of what brings me joy, the more joy I have been finding in my everyday life (like cooking in the kitchen again and making this rich and flavourful oven-baked plum jam from locally grown Danson plums using my mom's recipe).
And perhaps the wisdom I have been searching for these past months hasn't been hidden only in the books, but rather in my ability to trust my own true nature and letting life carry me through my darkest times and my glory...    

Plum Jam
 (makes 2 jars of 300ml)


1 kg. Danson plums
0.5 kg. sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
vanilla bean


Wash, pit and halfen the plums. Spread them in a baking dish. Add sugar on it and stir. Cover the dish and leave it for about 5-10 hours. Plums should absorb the sugar and release their juice. Add water, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well. 
Preheat oven to 300C. Bake until bubbles appear and plums texture gets dense – about an hour and a half, depends on how ripe the fruits are. Add 1 tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice and bake for a few more minutes.
Pour jam into sterilized glass jars.   

Sharing with Home Sweet Home

October 1, 2016

Cultivate... community

                         "Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious." 
                                                                                                                                – Ruth Reichl

One of the most beautiful season in Ontario is here and the best way to welcome Autumn is to celebrate our connection to the generous earth and nature at it best. Harvest festivals and fall fairs are organized in big and small cities around the province giving people opportunities to share values of supporting local produces, local art culture and food education. Why is local important? Besides learning where our food comes from, keeping in touch with the seasons and improving our health, by buying locally grown food we strengthen our community by investing our food dollars close to home. Did you know that every dollar you spend on food grown or harvested in Ontario or made from Ontario ingredients, contributes 300% more to local economy than if you bought an import? Or that every dollar you spend on VQA wine, for example, instead of imported wine has 11 times the economy impact in Ontario? (Ontario Local Food Report). So, when last week I was invited to take part in a three day food and drink festival held in the heart of downtown Port Hope, about an hour east of Toronto, I was excited. After all, who doesn't want to spend a Sunday eating freshly prepared local food, drinking craft beer (not me, but my husband) and fair trade coffee, listening to local bands, cooking with chefs, tasting winning pies from a pie-baking competition, drawing at the community coloring book and sticking fingers in a pink cloud of cotton candy made with organic sugar...

Lots of really nice things are happening at Cultivate: A Festival of Food and Drink and if you have a chance, go and participate next year. Go and celebrate a wonderful community that gathers to connect to Ontario's harvest season, to great local food, to local producers, knowledgeable chefs and to each other. A community that is aware of the importance of the farm-to-fork movement and food literacy. A community that knows that what we eat and how we eat it can change the world... Yes, it can!  

Do you have a favourite Fall event? 

August 31, 2016

Lavender Fields Forever

In a never ending summer day, put me in a lavender field, especially one that has a yellow door in the middle and I will become Alice – curious, carefree, venturing to drink the bottle, eat the cake, shrink like a telescope and walk through the door in the hope of a fantastic adventure... Put me in a lavender field and the world becomes a sweet tale.
Lavender, brimming with its simple fragrance and pretty purple hue that so many of us love, is in my opinion one of the most enchanting herbs. Thanks to the people of Pine-Sol and Terre Bleu Lavender Farm, who hosted a lovely event about the fragrant industry, this August I've been given a chance of walking through the last flowers of the large fields of lavender. If you wandered onto this resplendent property, you might never know you were just outside of a big hectic city; instead you would rather feel the charming countryside atmosphere of Provence or Tuscany. However, Terre Bleu is the most beautiful organic working family farm in Ontario that grows eight varieties of lavender under the northern climate and produces a range of handmade products – essential oil, soaps, macarons... Certainly, the best place to learn about flavours and fragrances. The best place to enjoy al fresco lunch full of savor and style from the salmon with sorrel sauce, to the lemon tart, lavender ice cream and of course, lavender lemonade. I also explored the distillery where 200 pounds of fresh lavender are broken down to make 500ml of pure essential oil. I met the honeybees that pollinate the lavender plants from which the pure premium lavender honey is extracted. I crossed an enchanting forest only to discover a yellow bench awaiting to hug me... I uncovered myself in the near-finished oil painting of an artist who was working surrounded by sunflowers somewhere in a distance almost unnoticed. 
I was slowly going back to my happy place, one that I have been struggling to find this entire summer. I was gently invited to stop, breath and smell... the roses the lavender... the world...the life... 
I was Alice, "in a Wonderland I lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summer die." 
And most importantly, I went through the yellow door in the middle of the purple sea assured by the words of the owners' 10-year-old daughter that "when I walk through the door, my worries are behind me, my joys are ahead." 
I believed that little girl.  

August just melted as a purple lavender ice cream. A new season is coming and I am excited. I hope for peacefulness, simple pleasures, sweet tales and happy places for all of us. Our worries behind us, our joys are ahead.